Dean Atta on Hip Hop and Homophobia

Posted: Thu Jul 7 2011

Dean Atta tackles the taboo subject of homosexuality in hip hop.

One of the UK's finest poets,Dean Atta, is about to meet one of the toughest challenges of his career and discover the gritty truth about hip hop's last taboo: the gay rapper! The openly gay poet, who has traveled across Europe and won notable awards for his work, takes on the role in an hour-long documentary to discover whether the world of hip hop is honestly ready to accept homosexuality.

So, Dean, tell us about your intriguing documentary on being gay in hip hop
'It all started when Georgia Lewis Anderson - best known as the face of popular youth brand, SB.TV - got in touch with me after seeing my poem, "Young Black & Gay'" on the Grime Daily website. She then followed me to some of my gigs, talked to me about my views on hip hop, challenged me to make a hip hop track and got me in the studio with Artful [Mark Hill of Artful Dodger fame]. After the track was made, she then took it to Tim Westwood and other major industry figures to get their feedback.'

Whatwere your views on homophobia in hip hop before this process?
'I honestly think that this is much bigger than hip hop, and the documentary only scratches the surface of issues to do with masculinity - in particular, the perceptions of what black male masculinity looks like or should be. I think these issues are heightened in hip hop, but I think we're beginning to see more of a "don't ask don't tell"attitude towards homosexuality, rather than an outright intolerance or abhorrence towards gay men. If I were to enter the hip hop arena, I wouldn't want to just be tolerated, I would want to feel accepted and respected for who I am.'

Do you now feel different after your personal experiences?
'I felt very encouraged after making my track and hearing feedback that didn't focus on my sexuality. At the end of the day, good music is good music. Good lyricism cannot be denied!'

Aremusic fans and the industry ready for an openly gay rapper?
'I think they need to get ready! If it's not me, then it will be someone else, and very soon. Hopefully a young aspiring gay rapper will hear this documentary and decide they will be brave enough to be open about their sexuality, or maybe even established rapper might decide to come out. The world has never been more ready for this than right now.'

Why should we tune in on Sunday?
'You will be hearing history in the making. This documentary is going to change people's lives. So whether you yourself are gay or you've got gay friends, or you're just a hip hop head, I think you should listen to this documentary. There are some extremely important voices speaking in the documentary, including heads of labels, music journalists, hip-hop artists and DJs.'

BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Stories -No Homo: Hip Hop's Last Taboo† Sun Jul 10, 9-10pm† www.bbc.co.uk/1xtra† Join the debate live on Twitter by tweeting #lasttaboo while you’re listening.